Empty Stocking Fund agency profile: Project Hope

Bonnie Gardner, left, and Doretha Crawford fill bags with food Tuesday at Project HOPE in Rock Hill.
Bonnie Gardner, left, and Doretha Crawford fill bags with food Tuesday at Project HOPE in Rock Hill.

It's time to help the area's less fortunate by participating in The Empty Stocking Fund, organized by The Herald. The Empty Stocking Fund is a holiday assistance effort to help needy families in the newspaper's readership area. Contributions will be divided among eight local nonprofits -- Fort Mill Care Center, Clover Area Assistance Center, Chester County Department of Social Services, The Turning Point of Chester, Project HOPE, PATH (People Attempting to Help), Salvation Army and Tender Hearts Community Outreach. Contributions to the Empty Stocking Fund can be mailed to P.O. Box 10921, Rock Hill, SC 29731, or dropped off at The Herald, 132 W. Main St., Rock Hill. Contributors' names will be published in The Herald.

Agency: Project HOPE, (Helping Other People Effectively), 404 E. Main St., Rock Hill.

Hours of operation: Applications are accepted from 9 to 10:30 a.m. Monday through Friday.

Services offered: Provides crisis assistance through food, clothing, medicine, transportation, lodging, utility and kerosene assistance for Rock Hill school district residents.

By the numbers: In 2006, the agency has assisted 4,217 individuals and families with food, 583 individuals and families with clothing and shoes, 278 with medicine and 421 with kerosene. Project HOPE volunteers say they are not sure how many individuals they have helped this year, but are sure the numbers have exceeded last years.

What are they seeing now: Bo Coleman, chairman of Project HOPE, said volunteers have seen a large number of individuals within the last month requesting assistance with utilities, natural gas, medicine and kerosene. This month alone they have had 118 cases needing kerosene and were forced to reduce kerosene allocations to five gallons instead of the usual 10 gallons.

Example of a recent individual/family served: Coleman said he is seeing people of all ages. The most recent case was a 78-year-old, who has a 61- and 62-year-old living with her who both receive Supplemental Security Income per month. She needed assistance with food and a utility bill of almost $260.

The nonprofit was able to assist them through its Project HOPE Helping Hand Fund, along with help from the city of Rock Hill, said volunteer Ann Wilkerson. Coleman also said the agency assisted a woman with three children, ages 7, 5 and 3, with her utilities. The woman earns $500 a month and has to pay $395 a month in rent.

Sources of funding: Donations from churches, service organizations and individuals.

Annual budget: They gave out almost $123,000 in financial assistance last year.

Brief history: Project HOPE was started in 1975 after a large number of mill workers lost their jobs. Several area churches came together to minister to human needs in crisis situations.

Contact information: Bo Coleman, chairman of Project HOPE, 328-8000.